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http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Obituary+David+Azrieli+touched+many+parts+society/10014707/story.html By Paul Delean, THE GAZETTE European-born David Azrieli, who fled the Nazis as a teenager, fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and then found fortune in Canada, died Wednesday at age 92. According to Forbes magazine, the Montreal-based real-estate developer and businessman was one of the richest Canadians with an estimated worth of $3.1 billion. He also was one of the most generous, contributing more than $100 million to philanthropic causes around the world, many of them in the fields of medical research, education and the arts. “It’s a great loss,” said Susan Laxer, president of local Jewish organization Federation CJA. “He literally changed the landscape in Israel with his office towers and architecture, and with his philanthropy, he touched many parts of our society and community. Through his legacy, he’ll continue to touch the lives of many people.” Norma Joseph, professor of religion and associate-director of the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies at Concordia University, described him as “a formidable person, very strong-minded. And he used his mind for a wonderful vision of community and building.” The institute got its start in 2011 with funding provided by the family foundation, “but he did more than give money. He also gave his personal time and effort,” Joseph said. Born into a Jewish family in Poland, Azrieli escaped ahead of the Nazi occupation and kept moving, winding up in British Mandate Palestine in 1942. He studied architecture at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and fought in Israel’s war of independence before settling in Canada in 1954. In a rare 1973 interview with the Montreal Star, he said he arrived here with no family connections and “literally, penniless.” “Nobody gave me anything,” he said. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Université de Montréal and working at a number of jobs, he had enough saved for his first solo project in 1957, construction of four duplexes on vacant lots he purchased in Ville D’Anjou. It was the start of a real-estate juggernaut that would eventually include thousands of apartment units, office buildings and shopping centres in Canada, the U.S. and Israel. Among his local holdings is the downtown Dominion Square Building housing The Gazette, acquired for $78.25 million in 2005, and the Sofitel Hotel. The Azrieli Group also held interests in companies active in the fields of energy, water and finance. He remained its chairman until last week when daughter Danna succeeded him, a move prompted by his medical condition. A sometimes controversial figure, Azrieli made headlines in the 1970s when he razed the former Van Horne Mansion on Sherbrooke St. and erected a 17-storey office tower on the site. In 1984, he sued The Gazette for libel over an editorial about a local development, but lost. “From the times of the pyramids to those of the skyscrapers, the works of architects and builders have been monuments to their glory or to their shame,” Superior Court Judge Paul Reeves said. “They build before the public eye and the public rightfully says whether it likes or dislikes what it sees.” In his later years, Azrieli split his residency between Israel and Westmount. “I have two homelands,” he once said, “two places that I love and where I have been blessed to do what I love best.” Active in and supportive of Jewish causes throughout his lifetime, he served as president of the Canadian Zionist Federation and in 2008 authored a book called Rekindling the Torch: The Story of Canadian Zionism, which told the story of the contribution of Canadian Jews and non-Jews to establishment of the state of Israel and their continuing support for the country. He also made Holocaust remembrance a personal crusade after it took from him two siblings and both parents. “This is my vision, to be able to use the tangible rewards of my career in building and construction to create a legacy for education and educational institutions in both of my homelands,” he said. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Azrieli also was a “chevalier” of the Ordre National du Québec. Married for 57 years to Stephanie Lefcort, he had four children: Rafael, Sharon, Naomi and Danna. He died surrounded by family at his country home in Ivry-sur-le-Lac, Que. [email protected]